Zynga Founder Steps Down in Favor of Former Xbox Innovator

Danielle Kurtzleben
July 2, 2013

After a long rough patch marked by declining users and falling stock prices, Zynga is changing up its leadership.

The company has appointed Don Mattrick, president of Microsoft's Interactive Entertainment Business, to be its new chief executive officer, according to a Monday afternoon press release. Founder Mark Pincus, meanwhile, will step down from his position as CEO but will remain chairman of the company's board, as well as Chief Product Officer.

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In a statement, Pincus cited Mattrick's long tenure in the gaming business and particularly his success in growing the user base of Microsoft's popular Xbox among Mattrick's qualifications. Mattrick is also a veteran of video game company Electronic Arts.

"Don is unique in the game business," said Pincus. "He's one of the top executives in the overall entertainment business and he's a great coach who has inspired people to do their best work and build strong, productive teams."

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Zynga, which is behind social media games like Farmville and Words with Friends, has had a bumpy ride since its December 2011 IPO. After an IPO price of $10 per share, Zynga's stock rose to nearly $15 per share just a few months later, only to tumble through most of 2012 to nearly $2.

The company's latest earnings report in April showed earnings and revenue that beat Wall Street expectations, but it wasn't all good news. Figures also showed that monthly active users had fallen by 13 percent, to 253 million, down from the 331 million posted in the third quarter of 2012.

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While it's uncertain whether new leadership may be able to breathe new life into the company, markets seemed cheered by the news: Zynga shares closed Monday at $3.07, up more than 10 percent.